A Director’s Tale

What to do when you’ve got to produce that ‘difficult second album’?

I’m not sure what happened! I was laying out the rope that marked out the playing area for A Midsummer Night’s Dream last year and I must have had a rush of blood to the head from bending down. Next thing you know I’m haranguing our dear old Chairman about the popularity of the show and how we couldn’t let that kind of popular following slip away. And then for some reason I said that I’d be ‘more than happy’ to direct again the following year. For 24 hours it was a brilliant idea – MND went as well as we could ever have expected; the crowds loved it , the cast loved it , the committee loved it. It was the best thing I’d ever directed. And then as Costard said ….Oh Balls!!

How on earth was I going to better or even equal it! In reality, no one (including me) expected me to, but that’s your challenge as a Director, you always want to do better; if you’re not learning and improving, what’s the point?

I genuinely thought for a second I should throw in the towel rather than have to compete with myself, but ( I admit ) pride wouldn’t let me. I’d given myself a point to prove – now I had to work out a way to do it.

So back I went to the drawing board, knowing that compared with MND I was already 6 months behind the curve. I’m not sure anyone realises how long the creative process works – maybe I overdo it, but I change my mind constantly about the way I want to present the play I’m directing. With a structured, modern play you don’t have to worry too much, the script tells you what to do , but when it’s Shakespeare you have to think about the interpretation because that gives you the whole structure and feeds into every little detail of the play the audience will ultimately see. If you’ve not done this before the auditions, the cast won’t know what they are doing and you are going to end up with a mess.

I drew up a shortlist, the usual suspects, things the audience will know – Much Ado, Twelfth Night , As you like it , I even considered non-comedies, A Winters Tale, The Merchant of Venice. Nothing was floating my boat. In the end, while I was on holiday, I decided on Much Ado because it’s probably (next to MND) the best crowd pleaser and everyone I spoke to seemed to think it was a great idea. However, there was a problem, as although I’d seen it loads of times, I actually didn’t know it that well.

Then I got a text ……

Out of the blue one Michael Beaven sent me a random text saying he’d just read Love’s Labour’s Lost and it was very funny. My first thought was to wonder what on earth the dear boy does for recreation! But then a light went on.

I knew the play – very well, I’d studied it and I’d been in it. And I suddenly realised that I’d been forgetting the most important thing, that above all else the Director has to know the play and REALLY know it. If you don’t know the play, you have no chance of developing a (for want of a better phrase) vision of what you want the play to be.

I also knew that I’d know the play better than any of the cast – because in some cases people hadn’t even heard of it. This was a massive advantage because anyone who does know it knows a few things about it –

  • it’s long – very long!
  • It’s wordy – probably Bill’s wordiest!
  • It’s an early one – ergo he did better ones later on.
  • A good proportion of it is totally inaccessible and irrelevant,

Ideal then!

If the the committee had had an inkling then, I’m pretty certain someone would have told me I needed my head testing. But they didn’t and I was pretty certain that with some cuts, some added business and (crucial this) the right casting, we could make something special of it.

The thing that I heard most was that it was a ‘brave’ choice – I think they meant ‘brave’ in the ‘stupid’ sense. But I was pleased – after MND I felt like it would have been too easy just to roll another crowd pleaser out – this was a challenge!

I’d convinced myself – now I just had to convince a cast. To do that I needed an interpretation that was reminiscent of what we had done with MND but didn’t feel like we were repeating ourselves. Another key factor in the choice of LLL was the setting – at the end of MND the monastery had looked stunning lit up and I really wanted it as a back drop – MND’s staging had been radical so I didn’t feel the need to better it. LLL was perfect as it’s the only Shakespeare play where all the action takes in a single location – against the Manor House – the stars were aligning!

In MND the premise had been EastEnders up for a picnic, now I needed something that would work with this play. There was a lot of agonising; poor old JB got all the possible interpretations thrown at him when I visited him in India – serves him right for taking me on such a long road trip. When I came back I was convinced it was going to be set at a Rugby Club with a visiting women’s hockey team. But something wasn’t right. It just wasn’t falling into place. Then, out of the blue, I heard a news item about an old golf club finally overturning years of tradition by allowing women into the clubhouse – it was appallingly sexist to the point of misogyny- and bang – it all fell into place – the golfers, the ladies visiting the spa, the green keeper, the club steward, the bar maid – it just worked. I had my theme; I had my space, now all I needed was a cast.

I felt very confident at the auditions, contrary to popular belief I don’t pre-cast – ever. You just never know what’s going to surprise you (who remembers Doug auditioning for Puck – game changer!!)

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With a couple of exceptions, no one ended up in the roles I thought they would. Casting is all about balance; in this play getting the pairings of the royals was also important. It’s also about making sure that you are putting people into the larger roles who can handle it, because those are the people you can rely on and can carry the play.

You always have to be mindful that we are an amateur group and when you are directing something as big as a Shakespeare play you have to have a balance of people who don’t need quite as much direction, so that you can also work with the less experienced people and bring them up to a level beyond what they think they are capable of.

At the auditions a few people surprised me as much for destroying my preconceptions of what they could do, plus there were some new people there too. Over the two auditions I got really lucky – some things slotted beautifully into place, some were less obvious. Again, I was looking for my ‘Doug as Puck’ moment and it was when Andy read Ferdinand with his ‘oop north’ voice things began to make sense – I suspect he was after a different part, but he’d sown the seed!

I always cast the same way – select the obvious ones and build round it – Paul, Granville, Sean, Andy, Nancy and Lisa got set in stone early on and from that core I was able to build what I thought was a very strong cast.

A few things caused us issues along the way – losing Rachel was a big blow, and I thought for a while I might have to step in myself, but after thinking it over it suddenly became obvious that I could move Nicky into Costard’s role with Greg becoming Dull. What a decision that turned out to be with Nicky turning in a performance right up there with the best we’ve seen on a Water Lane stage!

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Originally I rehearsed it in groups, as I did with MND, but after 3 weeks it became apparent that we needed flow so I changed the schedule and ran it chronologically- it just needed it – it was that kind of play. Ultimately, I think the final performance benefitted too as we didn’t get a full cast at rehearsal until 2 days before the show.

I pause here to mention sound and light – one of the things I loved about MND was the freedom to choose music I wanted to set the scene – music is important and evocative – and it can have a profound effect on how an audience sees a play – I had so much fun choosing the music for this play, but I would bore you to tears if I talked you through the reasons I chose the music I did for each scene. It was a six month long process – but I hoped it worked. The only thing I will say is that I agonised about the finale music – after the Imagine Dragons last year, I really didn’t want to get it wrong – but the feel and the sentiment of ‘Adventure of a Lifetime’ was so apt, once I’d thought of it, it couldn’t be beaten, especially since I worked the dance out in my living room looking like a total idiot!

Not much surprises me about amateur theatre, but I was stunned on the Tuesday at how everyone pulled it out of the bag – it was the first proper run through. It was like a performance- all the hard work that everyone had done came into play and even I was taken aback at how good it was.

I could write volumes here – but I’ll resist – the one thing I’d like to end on is ‘trust’ and in this context I talk about Granville, Will, Michael and JJC – you have to trust they know what they are doing – and they do – they really do. Having people like that running everything else allows you to direct the way you want to – and it’s the heart and soul of our little group. It’s also the thing that makes someone fly back from India because they don’t want to miss it.

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Richard Pink – Director – Love’s Labour’s Lost – Water Lane Theatre Company – July 2017

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Auditions for Wyrd Sisters are this week!

Auditions for WYRD SISTERS will take place on TUESDAY 25th and THURSDAY 27th JULY

8.00 pm in the top room at URC Church Hall, Water Lane

This play has some amazing characters which will be great fun to play. The list below will give you a guide. Please come along and discover Terry Pratchett’s strange and wonderful world .

The Characters

Granny Weatherwax  ~ Oldest and wisest witch. Well respected.

Nanny Ogg ~ Mother and grandmother to a large family. Likes a good knees up.

Magrat Garlick ~ Youngest witch. Thinks ritual is very important.

Fool ~ Doesn’t like being a fool. Very smart.

Duke Felmet ~ The Macbeth of the play. Goes increasingly mad.

Lady Felmet ~ ‘Lady Macbeth’. Power hungry and pure evil.

King Verance ~ Late King of Lancre. Stuck haunting the castle.

Tomjon ~ Long lost prince of Lancre but doesn’t know it. Just wants to be an actor.

Vitoller ~ Theatrical impresario. Tomjon’s adopted father.

Mrs Vitoller ~ Married to Vitoller. Keen to adopt Tomjon as has lost a child.

Hwel ~ Playwright for Vitoller’s players.

Demon ~ Omniscient being from the demon dimensions. (Probably going to be a puppet.)

Sergeant ~ Head of the palace guards.

Robbers ~ Members of the Thieves Guild of Ankh Morpork.

Players, Guards, Soldiers, Bowmen ~ Various

Another Loves Labours Lost review!

WATER LANE THEATRE COMPANY

“Love’s Labour’s Lost”

Director – Richard Pink

Reviewed at The Monastery Gardens, Bishops Stortford on Saturday 8th July 2017

This is the second of Water Lane Theatre Company’s picnic productions in The Monastery Gardens that I have had the pleasure of attending. They make for a lovely evening’s entertainment and at the same time raise money for a worthy cause. In this instance a local Hospice.

I admit to not being a fan of period drama in modern dress, so I did wonder how this particular play would lend itself to being set in the twenty first century. Any pre-conceptions I may have had were soon dispelled as I allowed myself to be transported to the Navarre Golf and Country Club, where the action unfolds.

There were strong performances from Andy Roberts as Ferdinand who decides to forego all earthly pleasures during a period of study and from the three lords – Berowne (Sean Burke), Longaville (Doug Sheppard) and Dumaine (Adam Andrews) who also take the oath, which is of course broken with the arrival of the Princess of France and her attendant ladies.

Nancy Jones as the Princess was well cast and gave a very good performance, as did the ladies of the court. Rosaline (Lisa Turpcu), Maria (Rachel Jackson) and Katherine (Emma Pink).

Well done to Nicola Maguire for her portrayal of the comic Costard and to Corrina Graham-Hodson who gave a good performance as the wench Jacquenetta.

Paul Winspear did a great job as Don Armado. His Spanish and his skill with a golf club were impressive! A nice performance also from Kerry Wheeler as Moth.

The company has some excellent actors, able to turn their hand from comedies by the likes of David Croft and Jimmy Perry to those of Shakespeare, with what appears to be comparative ease. Amanda Green gave a great characterisation of Sir Nathaniel and Granville Rush a polished performance as Holofernes.

To my mind the whole cast deserves praise for the brilliant interpretation of this Shakespeare comedy, so my apologies to those I have not named.   A special mention though for the children who were obviously enjoying being part of this production. Some new cast members in the making maybe!

Sometimes the unavoidable happens and someone has to drop out, as happened in this Saturday evening performance. Director Richard Pink came to the rescue with score in hand and had we not been made aware, we surely would never have known that the role of Boyet was not his.

This was a very enjoyable production. Congratulations to everyone involved and thank you for inviting me.

Decia Ranger

NODA East

District 7

A review of Loves Labours Lost…all the way from India!

Ok, so I have to be careful, and be objective here. I’m here to review Water Lane Theatre Company’s “Love’s Labour’s Lost”. I’ll be honest: I’ve acted and directed in their plays for the last 15 years but this is the first time in probably 14 years where I’ve had absolutely nothing to do with one of their productions…so how on earth do I review it?

For a start, I live in India, but decided that I really, really, really wanted to see this play, despite having to travel to the UK to see it…in a single weekend. I’ll explain in a bit.
Why did I really, really, really want to see it? Because WLTC rocks with Shakespeare!

Short of travelling to the Globe, they’re the only game in town when it comes to performing the Bard – and play it well. Like RSC at the Globe, they also do minimal sets (as did the Elizabethan stage): their Shakespeares have always been set in the beautiful Monastery Gardens in Bishops Stortford: punters are invited to make an evening of it by bringing a picnic…and maybe the odd bottle of wine? Blankets tend to be a must because, no matter how warm it might be during the day, it’s normally fair to say that it will be chilly in the evening. So, location, tick.

Picnic, wine, blanket: ready to be entertained. What – Shakespeare entertaining – You must be kidding? No, not at all – Shakespeare CAN be entertaining, IF the audience is part of the show and the magic is provided. What’s the quote from Henry V when the chorus comes on stage?

Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts:
Into a thousand parts divide one man,
And make imaginary puissance.
Think, when we talk of horses, that you see them
Printing their proud hooves i’th’receiving earth.
For ’tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings,
Carry them here and there, jumping o’er times,
Turning th’accomplishment of many years
Into an hourglass: for the which supply,
Admit me Chorus to this history,
Who, prologue-like, your humble patience pray
Gently to hear, kindly to judge our play.

Basically, Shakespeare was saying to the audience, “forget the fact that we’ve no set, use your imagination!” – or words to that effect.

Right, back to LLL. Why does this involve the audience? Because of the gardens, because of the picnic (and possibly a lot to do with the wine), and that many entrances and exits are through the audience, giving the further feel that they are literally IN the play.

LLL isn’t an easy play to understand – it’s one of Bill’s earliest plays and certainly one of the wordiest. There’s a lot that was cut – everybody does it and, to be honest, you have to because some is just not relevant to the play, being commentary for the time. I didn’t read the synopsis in the program (which was funny!) so I had to really listen and think hard about what was being said and what the metaphors meant. But the actors knew what they were saying; They wanted to be part of this play, to be directed, to entertain the punters; They understood who they were and they understood the complexities of the plot, and that was enough to give that meaning to the audience too.

Costumes. I had a chuckle when Julius Caesar was recently performed in the USA and JC was dressed as Donald Trump causing some violent reactions from DT supporters. No such reactions or happenings here but it shows that, as with many of WS’s plays, period costume is not always necessary and it can be done in dress that is far removed from its time. LLL was no exception and the men in golf apparel and the ladies in Hen Weekend dresses was a fantastic decision. For a start it made it so much easier to provide costumes – believe me, making period costume is a specialism in itself and is a total distraction for the director, involving so many more people in the play – but, visually, it also made the play accessible for the audience from the very start. Tick.

Accents. Gone was the received pronunciation you often get with Shakespeare (who was a Brummie so was unlikely to sound like that anyway) and it was replaced with English regional accents. Oh, and a Spanish bloke with a great spanish accent, Don what-his-name. From what I hear this chap went to spanish pronunciation lessons. DED-EEE-CATION – Another tick.
The fun. The cast, genuinely looked like they were enjoying the play – by that I mean the jokes, the humour and the plot twists that was part of the story. The enthusiasm – and stupidity – by which the men were trying to convince the ladies of their genuine love was so funny, showing how little men have changed in over 400 years. The cunning of the ladies to confuse and fool the men still translates perfectly over 400 odd years later too. I think we all understood that.

The Music. I always loved watching RSC at the Globe use modern music to start and finish their plays, especially with the dancing at the end. It also reminded me of the film “A Knight’s Tale” which also had modern dance and music which just made you enjoy it more. This was no exception. Richard Pink, LLL director, has an encyclopaedic knowledge of music and his ability to choose a song to start, finish or stick in the middle of a scene is second to none (get a job on the next Tarantino movie RP!). The best I could manage would be to hum a tune but I would fail miserably remembering what the song was called or who sang it.

So, we end up with a finale, when the men and women are all coupled up, everything has worked out fine but – oh no! – Princess’s father has died, and it’s all quite sad. There IS morose a song at the end of LLL, but, instead, this was a perfect opportunity for a bit of Coldplay and a dance instead, right? Of course – We all clap, we love it, we’ve been entertained, we’ve been part of it, it’s finished the play off and everyone gets their money’s worth: all £5.50 worth. Read it again: Five parnds fifty. A steal. Tick again.

What does £5.50 buy you these day. A pint? Barely. A movie ticket? Noooo. A theatre ticket – not a chance. A standing place in the RSC Globe yard – absolutely. But, then again, why would you because you can’t eat your picnic, drink your wine, nor enjoy Shakespeare in the beautiful Monastery Gardens. Tick – Tick – Tick.

Maybe, now, you’ll understand why I travelled all the way from India to see this play (aside from seeing the surprise on everybody’s faces – I told nobody I was going!). Roll on next year!

A review from John Bell

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The Accessibility of Local Theatre – Water Lane Theatre Company – review from Notjustthethreeofus

We have been keen followers of the Water Lane Theatre Company for some time now. Water Lane is an Amateur Theatre Group based in Bishop’s Stortford.

I have the good fortune to have a friend in the group which is how we stumbled upon Water Lane many years ago.
We attended our first show some years back and have remained keen followers. We have seen some cracking performances over the years.

A fellow blogger recently questioned why we don’t see many teens in the audience of the theatre these days.

The answer to this is quite simple for us. We live in London and for a family of three to go to the theatre, it is very expensive.

We adore theatre as a family but it is a treat and reserved for a special occasion.

However that is not to say that we aren’t always on the look out for alternative options and reduced ticket prices. The Not Just the 3 of Us family are always on the look out for a new experience.

And Water Lane is our special find.

The pièce de résistance is the annual production in the Monastery Gardens in Bishop’s Stortford in July.

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We really look forward to this each year.

The setting is second to none.

The beautiful monastery gardens are an idyllic location. Couple this with the fact that the weather is always glorious and you have a perfect evening of summer entertainment for the whole family.

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It is in these fabulous grounds that we are treated to the delights of a Shakespeare performance.

The Water Lane cast gave themselves a hard act to follow this year, after setting their own bench mark so incredibly high with their outstanding performance of Midsummer Nights Dream last July.

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A stunning performance that left the audience wanting to do it all again. Pure brilliance that made its way into our journal of highlights for 2016.

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This year the Monastery Gardens played host to Water Lane’s production of Love’s Labour’s Lost.

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And it didn’t disappoint.

The crowd were arriving early as is usual for this event. Easily spotted with their picnic rugs, chairs and the delights of their hampers to secure their spaces on the lawn and catch the late evening sunshine before the performance.

One by one we saw the cast appear in their guises, crafting their characters in their own unique way.

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Having the benefit of remembering many of them from previous performances, it is always a joy to see who has been cast in each role.

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Undeterred by the ‘inaccessibility’ of a Shakespeare play, and particularly so with a lesser known play such as this, one can easily get the gist of the storyline by doing their research beforehand.

This is something that we would naturally do anyway to ensure our teen daughter has a general understanding. It was a necessity for us too this year.

But these performances can be enjoyed on many levels and in many ways.

Fans of the Bard can indulge in the comedy, history and tragedy of the underlying story because, as we know in the world of Shakespeare, there is much ‘seeming’ and ‘being’ and nothing is ever as it seems.

Others, with a brief understanding of the storyline can enjoy the simple pleasures of the performance as it plays out.

For younger children, the spectacle of the performance and the mystery of where the cast members may appear from – coupled with the singing and dancing, is enough to draw them away from anything remotely digital for an hour or two.

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As dusk starts to fall, the sound of corks popping on this barmy evening is all that can be heard from the happy audience.

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It is because of local drama groups such as these that we are able to access the very best of theatre that we may otherwise have to miss out on.

And it is only with the support of the public that these groups are able to continue to put on such fabulous performances.
I should add that the whole evening cost £16.50 (that’s £5.50 per ticket!!) plus the cost of a 30 minute car journey and a picnic.
Such an incredibly economic way to access the theatre for all.
And to all involved at Water Lane – BRAVO!

Thank you for a wonderful evening! We will be back.
The good news is that this performance is running for a further two days next weekend at the Gibberd Garden, Harlow. You can purchase tickets by clicking on the flyer below. The weather is set to be perfect again for the weekend.

With the summer holidays approaching, I thoroughly recommend doing a little research into local theatre groups where you live. I am sure that there are many groups out there to cater for all tastes and pockets.

Nicky

Source: http://notjustthe3ofus.com/lifestyle/accessibility-local-theatre-water-lane-theatre-company/

A labour of Love for Local Theatre Lovers – Love’s Labour’s Lost at the Monastery Gardens

1st June 2017 – Bishops Stortford: Following Water Lane Theatre Companies last Summer smash hit Shakespeare success with their sell out, open air performances of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the troupe will be reprising the Bards work this season with a thoroughly modern take on Love’s Labour’s Lost.

Set against the beautiful backdrop of the Monastery Gardens in Bishops Stortford, the scene will unfold for a group of studious sportsmen to swear allegiance to each other and their single minded wish to study, only to be smitten with the arrival of four socially superior sirens who will steal their hearts and set them against each other, all in the name of love.

If that is not enough muddle to meddle with, both learned lords and lumbering lackeys leap to all the wrong conclusions, adding to the general confusion of exactly who is who and whom may not be quite as they first may seem…. which makes falling in love with the right person, all that more tricky to achieve!!

Love and laughter abound in aid of The Isabel Hospice; Water Lane Theatre Company will perform Love’s Labour’s Lost in The Monastery Gardens, Windhill, Bishops Stortford on the evenings of 6th, 7th and 8th July 2017.

Truly enjoy the open air performance in style by packing a picnic basket, rugs and seating, bring your family and friends and once you have perused the local stallholders (including a Hog Roast), settle back to some classic British theatre for a summer evening.

Doors open at 6pm, performances begin at 7.30pm. Tickets £5.50 (including booking fee).

Tickets and information available from: www.waterlanetheatrecompany.co.uk or

The Tourist Information Centre, Market Square.

Facebook.com/waterlanetg

twitter@waterlaneTG

 

Editors notes:

For further details about this performance or Water Lane Theatre Group, please contact:

Michael Beavan, Production Manager, Love’s Labour’s Lost.

Mobile – 07958 660708

Email – michael@productionpublicity.com

One Act One Night – 26th June

One Act One night

With our mini festival of one act plays fast approaching on the 26th June we’ve asked our three new directors on why they wanted to take part

Heres what they said ….

Nancy Jones – Directing ‘Erica and Me’

‘Since joining the group eight years ago I have mainly only acted and watched in awe as the directors and the very talented back stage people put together productions.   Then last year Granville asked me to be his Production Manager for ‘Allo Allo’ and I got to see a different side to Amateur Theatre. It’s not all about being in the spotlight!   Directing a play for 1A1N feels like the next step in becoming a fully rounded member of the Group and who knows it may lead to me directing a full production one day!

I am really looking forward to working with my extremely talented cast and alongside Lisa and Ellie my fellow 1A1N directors to put on, what I hope, is a really entertaining night!

Fingers crossed that I don’t cock it up!   It will be alright on the night won’t it!?’

Lisa Turpcu – Directing ‘A cut above the rest’

Granville first suggested I consider having a go at directing shortly after our Water Lane production of “Calendar Girls”. Deborah Cain (director of CG) would always be a very tough act to follow! So I laughed and said I didn’t know the first thing about directing. (Nancy can confirm she still has to remind me what the term “blocking” means.) Hope this revelation isn’t too concerning for the cast of my upcoming OAON play! I’ve successfully dodged this role for three years. Granville’s not an easy man to say no to, so when he mentioned it again, I somewhat apprehensively agreed to give it a go. I chose a comedy, “A Cut Above The Rest”, which compliments the two other really funny plays to be directed by Nancy and Ellie. My great 10-strong cast and I start rehearsals tomorrow and I’m really looking forward to it. So here’s to a great night out on the 26th of June!

Elle Sims – Directing ‘Two Peas in a Pod’

Why am I doing OAON? Well firstly Granville has been saying I should direct and I was dubious at first. Then he mentioned Liam’s 10minute play which I thought would be a perfect foray into directing. OAON is a really good way to get lots of members involved and a nice starting place for new members to get themselves known. Plus being a member of the committee discussing different plays for the whole cast I’m finding myself more drawn towards directing in a bigger way.